Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said yesterday he would donate his imminent 3 percent salary increase to a worthy cause in response to a suggestion that high-ranking officials should donate their pay increases.
However, the salary increase for civil servants is entirely legitimate under the current system, Wu said.
He made the comments during a legislative hearing on the government’s supplementary budget for this year, when Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) raised the issue.
Chen said that an across-the-board pay raise for government employees could widen the income gap between senior and lower-ranking officials.
According to Chen, after the 3 percent pay hike takes effect on July 1, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) will see his monthly salary rise by NT$13,883 (US$485), the vice president’s pay will increase by NT$10,284, that of the heads of the five branches of government by NT$9,422, and that of the heads of ministries by NT$5,549.
However, government employees below grade 14 will get a monthly increase of no more than NT$1,500, Chen said.
High-ranking government officials, who already receive higher salaries, should therefore forgo their pay increases, she said.
Wu said in his report that the government had decided to raise salaries because civil servants had not received a pay hike since 2005. In making the decision, factors such as economic growth, overall finances and inflation were taken into consideration, he said.
Wu added that NT$10.82 billion had been set aside under the proposed NT$18.57 billion supplementary budget to fund the pay hike.
The budget plan also provides NT$4.83 billion to finance an expansion of public assistance, NT$2.54 billion for a program to waive tuition fees for senior-high school and senior vocational school students from low-income households, and NT$380 million to fund tuition-free kindergarten classes for all five-year-olds.
Wu dismissed concerns that using a supplementary budget to fund the pay raise for civil servants would violate the Budget Act (預算法), saying that the practice is completely lawful and follows precedent.
The law allows the government to put forward a supplementary budget plan to cope with “major contingencies,” but the Legislative Yuan’s Budget Center has questioned whether the pay hike constitutes a “major contingency.”
Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said the Budget Center’s opinion was intended for reference purposes only. Ultimately, it is legislators who will decide whether the pay hike fits the definition of a “major contingency,” he added.